Adrian Peterson: Judge Doty Got it Right Overturning the Punishment


Feb 6, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back

Adrian Peterson

arrives at the U.S. District Courthouse with his wife Ashley Brown Peterson as the NFL Players Association

I love the NFL. It is my favorite sport, and has been for quite a few years now. My wife will tell you, there are times that it is all I talk about.

That being said, the NFL is becoming an embarrassment to the world at large. The league is becoming more well-known for investigations and presence on police blotters than for great football on the field. That actually enrages me. The game that I love is being tarnished. Paul Newbold wrote a great piece on the issues right here, take a look if you haven’t. He not only expresses his outrage, but calls for regulation.

I share in Paul’s outrage, make no mistake.

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So it upsets me to report the basis of this piece. For anyone who missed, judge David Doty ruled in favor of Adrian Peterson yesterday, making him eligible to return to the league immediately. This by itself angers me. I am supposed to tell children why I love the NFL, when I know in my heart that these people act poorly get to continue playing. It’s wrong, and my blood boils to know that Adrian Peterson gets to return to the field.

However, I had to take a look at the case on the facts. This is not any defense of Peterson, but it is an indictment of how Roger Goodell handled the situation. What Goodell did was give the judge no choice but to vacate the ruling and reinstate Peterson.

Judge Doty got it right, as sad as it makes me to say it.

Next: Central Issue

Feb 6, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson autographs a dollar bill as he leaves the U.S. District Courthouse with his wife Ashley Brown Peterson as the NFL Players Association

I sat down and took a look at the ruling on Peterson in its entirety, which you can do as well here. As court rulings go, this one is fairly easy to understand.

When you look at one of the central issues of the appeal, Goodell’s mistake is abundantly clear. It becomes clear why the judge had to rule for Peterson:

The NFLPA argues that the award fails to draw its essence from the CBA because it ignores established law of the shop, namely, that the New Policy may not be retroactively applied. The NFL responds that Henderson, after a “careful review” of the Policy and the New Policy, correctly determined that the Commissioner had “broad discretion” under the CBA to impose the enhanced discipline set forth in the New Policy.

In layman’s terms, the argument made by the NFLPA is that the discipline should be based on when the incident occurred, and following that policy. The league argued that the new policy states that Goodell can do what he wants. Goodell himself even acknowledges that the changes in the Conduct policy were geared towards the future, “The policy change was forward….”

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You see, applying a new discipline policy to an incident that occurred prior that policy in effect cannot be done unless both parties agree. When the new Conduct policy was enacted, it needed to explicitly state that the Commissioner was allowed to do so. If it doesn’t, doing so is unreasonable.

It would be like saying, “OK, now all of the Pass Interference calls are fair game for coaches challenges.” Then, the league goes back and reviews all of the calls from last year, overturning the ones that were no good.

That wouldn’t be appropriate, and neither is retroactively applying a new policy to Peterson’s old incident. His incident took place in May, the policy wasn’t changed until the football season was underway.

Next: Exceeding Authority

Jan 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference for Super Bowl XLIX at the Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Peterson’s argument is further enhanced when the point is made about Roger Goodell’s hired arbitrator exceeding his authority. Harold Henderson, who heard Peterson’s league appeal, found that the new conduct policy was consistent with the old one, and Roger Goodell had “broad authority” to impose new discipline. Goodell himself contradicted that, acknowledging changes from the old policy to the new:

“I made a mistake. I’m not satisfied with the process we went through, I’m not satisfied with the conclusions. And that’s why we came out last month and said: we’re going to make changes to our policies. We made changes to our discipline.

In essence, the NFL new their policy was not consistent with the previous one, yet tried to apply it retroactively anyway.

Goodell had no leg to stand on. He went back to try and fix a lenient policy by hitting Peterson hard with a new policy he couldn’t use for a past event. The judge had no choice but to rule as he did.

The judge got it right, not because Adrian Peterson is innocent, but because Roger Goodell screwed it up.

And that is the problem with the NFL today.

The NFL has decided to appeal and placed Peterson on the exempt list. The league is being silly. One, they were wrong. Two, they were going to consider reinstatement in six weeks anyway.

It’s a waste of time to drag this out. You screwed up, move on.

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